Monday, November 05, 2007

The Turn of the Screw

It was as if, at moments, we were perpetually coming into sight of subjects before which we must stop short, turning suddenly out of alleys that we perceived to be blind, closing with a little bang that made us look at each other--for, like all bangs, it was something louder than we had intended--the doors we had indiscreetly opened.

The Turn of The Screw makes its appearance in season one where it marks the hiding place of the Swan Orientation Film. There were two comparisons between the book and the show that I wanted to focus on, they each leave me with questions and they each get a bullet:

Juliet’s Story?

  • The first thing I was struck by was the way that the governess was hired and eventually was transported to Bly. To me it seemed to parallel Juliet’s story. The governess recalls the circumstances of her hiring as something that she, “…took a couple of days to consult and consider. But the salary offered much exceeded her modest measure, and on a second interview she faced the music, she engaged. That was pretty much Juliet’s story. She was made an offer, the money would enable her to do so much and the research aspect of the position was hardly something she could pass up. Yet, she was hesitant to take the job on the island as she didn’t know what it entailed, and for the fact that she would be cut off from her family. Turn of the Screw even goes on to detail the travel arrangements of the governess which include long hours in a “swinging, bumping coach” to a stopping place where they are met by another vehicle that would take her to the house, This is very much like the plane ride and eventually the sub that took Juliet to the island.
  • When the governess arrives at Bly she instantly is struck by how perfect the children are. Even Miles, who was expelled from school for “something”, can do no wrong. She is quick to see small acts of "badness" as flaws in them and she thinks they are becoming corrupted by the ghosts she keeps seeing. I wonder if that’s how we’re meant to see the island, and specifically is how the island was sold to Juliet. It was meant to be her perfect haven for research. Is that one of the reasons this particular book leads to The Swan Orientation Film? DHARMA was billed as this perfect place, where research could be done without financial limitations or pesky regulations. A place where Juliet could do her research, or where Roger and his son Ben could start a new life and leave their hardships behind. All of the characters that have willingly (Kelvin) signed up for island duty seem to be under the impression that they are signing on to a place that is good, just, and the answer to what they have been looking for. Much like the governess taking the position where she finds the children to be perfect. She learns that Flora and Miles are not perfect, just as the DHARMA recruits learn the same about the island. The orientation films want try to paint us a rosy picture of perfection, while at the same time alluding to something being afoot indicating “the incident” and that the computers should not be used to try to communicate with the outside world. Nothing is as perfect as it initially seems…but we already knew that about the island didn’t we.

Ghosts or Madness?

  • The second thing that stood out was the ghosts, and seeing people that are not there. Throughout the book the governess sees what she thinks are the ghosts of Peter Quint and Miss Jessel. We are never really certain if she actually sees the ghosts or not, as no one else seems to see them (maybe Miles and Flora, but we're never really sure). She thinks the children are being taken over by the ghosts who are causing them to be bad. It seems that indeed at the end Miles dies because of seeming otherworldly intervention.
  • I find it interesting that this character is haunted by the ghosts of people that no one else sees. How many times on Lost have we see the dead walking, and appearing to individual characters only? Jack sees Christian Shepard, Eko sees Yemi, Ben sees his mother. On another level Hurley sees Dave, and again we have the semi transparent shapes of Walt and Jacob. They certainly could be dead, but we don’t know for sure. Ultimately though, we have lots of characters seeing people that for all intensive purposes should not be there.
  • In the book it seems that the governess might be going mad. Is that what we are supposed to wonder about the characters on Lost? Are the things they think they are seeing (the impossible things) real, hallucinations, or their minds slipping into madness? Is there some kind of mass hysteria going on here, where like the governess, the characters are trying desperately to pull someone else into their delusions?
  • In the story Mrs. Gross and Flora eventually cast the governess aside. Becoming horrified at her behavior and delusions, as well as frightened of her. Flora and all of her things are removed from the bedroom of the governess and she is left by herself. Mrs. Gross, claims to believe the governess, then takes Flora away, but not before disobeying her direct order to keep Miles and Flora apart. I wonder if something is being hinted at here. Ben and Locke are the only ones that we know of that have seen Jacob. Up until now it seems the others are willing to accept Ben's word on Jacob. But what if this book is foreshadowing for us some things to come? Perhaps the others will begin to be less accepting of the idea of Jacob and will eventually think that Ben and Locke are going mad. Maybe they think that already, Like Mrs. Gross suspected early on that the governess was acting strange, but kind of went along with it because of her stature in Bly.
Final Bullets:
  • Is Ben Miles? Is he being bad because he can, and following ghosts or so it seems. Is Ben really as bad as we think he is, or are we just seeing him from the wrong point of view?
  • Is Sawyer Miles? Is he being bad because he can, not really following ghosts, but certainly making choices based on the ghosts in his past.
  • We were shown this book twice in season one. Were the writers trying to foreshadow Juliet and her story, and/or some sort of impending madness that will soon come to a head?

Later this month: Of Mice and Men


maven said...

Ange: Your "Bullets" are lifesavers...helping me connect the book to the show. I definitely can see Juliet as the Governess being wooed to the island/mansion, and once getting there, feeling very stranded and isolated.

Ben as Miles: Is he good or is he bad. His boarding school thought he was bad, and he doesn't seem able to fit into a normal society. He keeps getting sent back home. Ben also seems to not "fit in", and has created his own world. Is it a good world or a bad one?

Amused2bHere said...

I just finished reading the ebook, and I have to admit I had to reread the end several times to figure out what happened. Then I verified my conclusions at the Cliff's Notes site! What a crazy story...

Good work on the bullet points, Ange. I can definitely see Juliet as the governess, etc. and the Ben/Miles connection. There is definitely some connection to Walt, however. He knows more than he tells, just like Miles.

I think Darlton used TTOTS to signal us that we were watching a ghost story of sorts: the scary apparitions in the jungle, the whispers, the secrets of the Island. I think Charlie summed it up when he said "Guys, where are we?" And I think it's that ghost story that hooked us all from episode 1-1.

Ange said...

Thanks Maven and Amused!

Maven: I like your thoughts on Ben. He is just so strange that just when we think we get a handle on him, things up and twist all around. Like Miles in the book.

Amused: I love the idea that this is to clue us in to a ghost story of sorts. All through the readings I have wondered how much are we supposed to read into these books. How much is clues, and how much is just letting us know something weird is going on here.

As far as the end goes. I am still a little unsure what I think happened. I still can't decide if Miles was killed by something supernatural, or if the governess didn't just suffocate him during her delusion by clutching him so hard. If that's the case, a child of his size should have been able to get did he let himself die?

jess4ua said...

Wow, what a book. I kinda got to cheat a little here, considering the book I read had notes from a certain someone. ;) Good job Ange!
I am with amused2bhere. I read the last couple of paragraphs about 6 times, in a hopeless attempt to decide what happened. The only thing that makes me think that the governess really saw the ghosts is that she accurately described the people to Mrs. Grose. Hehehe, I kind of feel like the governess as a LOST book club member. Am I going mad looking for clues in the books, or do I really see things.
I like the Ben and Locke = Flora and Miles.
This story also reminded me of the Hurley and Dave episode. Where Dave was kinda trying to make Hurley kill himself, just like the governess thought the ghosts might be doing to the kids.

Ange said...

Jess said...This story also reminded me of the Hurley and Dave episode.

Yeah, I thought so too. There were a lot of similarities with the ghosts and the apparitions roaming around on the island. Although Jack never interacted with his father like Hurley did with Dave.

Although, IIRC wasn't there once a discussion about Dave not being imaginary but actually on the island?

The governess seems to only sees these ghosts, but never talks to them. Like Jack and his father. No one else seems to have seen or interacted with them. Although I suppose that it's possible that Miles was talking to Quint, we just never saw it happen.

Still confusing, and still way too wordy...I think I'll go swoon around and fall to the floor weeping from the sheer horror of it all!

jess4ua said...


memphish said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
memphish said...

Great job Ange. I read the book way back during spring of S2, so there was no way I could tie it to the then non-existent Juliet. I think Juliet's inclusion in LOST makes this book a lot more relevant than it had before.

One of the key differences about the ghosts in TTOTS and LOST is that the Governess saw the ghosts of people who were NOT from HER past. So far on LOST people see things that are relevant to them, but never to other people, the horse and possibly the boar excluded. One of the things in TTOTS that makes you more sympathetic to the governess is that this "madness" does not seem to be of her own making.

I honestly don't remember enough to comment on who Miles might most closely resemble. The fact that the children need to be removed from society for society's good if not there own mirrors something that Dharma and the Others may be up to. It reminds me of what Karl said to Kate and Sawyer that he and the removed Tailies are better off than the other 815ers.